Last week, several of us in the over-the-hill gang discussed manners, especially the ones we were taught in our childhoods. We recalled the importance our parents and teachers placed on our polite behavior, sometimes rewarding us for practicing it and definitely disciplining us for failing to use our best manners.
Among the first words we were taught to use frequently were please and thank you. We used them within our families as well as when we were in public. Of course, we heard those words used by our parents. We heard them often during our meals as we asked for someone to pass the beans. I can still see hands paused in mid air in the event I didn't remember to say "please" when I asked for more biscuits. Also, the plate might not be released until I had thanked the passer.
We were reminded by our teachers to use those words in class and on the playgrounds. We were also taught by all early on that we were to use them when we were in public, whether in movies or in any stores in which people provided services to their customers. We were also supposed to use the words, sir and ma’am at all times. Proper behavior was expected and was practiced.
We learned early on to call people by their titles, such as Mr., Mrs. or Miss. As children, we rarely called any adults by their first names in those years, and we certainly did not call them by their last names only. The latter was almost a criminal offense in our family. Even when our parents called their friends and acquaintances by their first names, we used the polite forms of address.
As we talked about the manners, we tended to return to the importance of the use of the polite titles. One of the friends commented that she couldn't remember ever calling anyone by the last name only and still uses the polite forms. I recalled having used a man's last name without that title and receiving a major lecture from mother along with a quiet stare from Dad. I still don't call people by last names only, unless I am being rather disrespectful. I am more apt to use a man's last name only without meaning disrespect, but I very rarely call a woman by last name only and was pleased when the editors of the past allowed me to use the polite forms. When I am writing about an older woman, for example, I feel I owe her the respect of calling her by her last name with the title, Mrs. or Miss.
I guess I will try to come into this century and learn to call people by their first names without showing them the respect they are due. Of course, in person, I can still try to practice the old-fashioned ways.
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident. She can be reached through the Quay County Sun at 461-1952.